McMillan officials cleared of accusations
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – Seven years of legal questioning have come to an end, as the third of three inquiries have come to a close.
An investigation began into the town’s financial dealings in 2011, when a town official was accused of financial misdealings.
“It was over records from 2009 up to 2011, and that’s when the clerk was accused, first of all, of embezzlement and then when all of the audits and so forth came through – and there were no funds missing – but, they thought that she had misused used (the funds) by using money orders,” explained McMillan Town Chair Carolyn Opitz. “Well, she did that to try to keep that separate because that was the Fire Department Volunteer Fund.”
Opitz came into the position as McMillan chair in April 2011, a month after the individual accused of the financial mishandling was dismissed by the township.
“When the investigator came into our office after I was elected in 2011 and said there had been a complaint filed and we would have a criminal investigation; that’s when we spent at least six months or more. I went through everything for the year 2009 and there were no funds missing,” Opitz recalled.
The financial investigation was completed by Marathon County Detective Dennis Blaser and closed in 2012, when missing funds were not detected.
“Most of the complaints of money orders – missing money – is about the Fire Department Donation Fund,” Opitz added. “That fund is their money to use as they see fit. It all goes back into the Fire Department. We were just audited by the State of the Fall Fest funds which is conducted like a regular audit. They passed with flying colors.
“The Fire Department has been accused of using funds inappropriately and ‘wanting too much.’ They needed new SCBAs (Self-contained breathing apparatus). Their current ones were old and end of life and new ones that would be compatible with our closest mutual aid partners was asking ‘too much.’ A used rescue truck was purchased with over half of the cost provided by their Fall Fest money (Donation Fund). They have given to the community over $300,000 of their donation fund (not taxpayer funds) over the years.”
Following the closure of that case came a complaint made to the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department regarding an October 2016 open records request made by a McMillan resident.
“We wanted some documentation of what it was exactly that they were looking for. They said that there is money out there that is unaccounted for and we want to know,” Opitz said. “(We said that) we would try to find whatever they wanted, but she had to be specific so we knew what we were looking for and that she was going to have to pay for it. So, they never responded.”
In September 2018, Marathon County District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon confirmed that McMillan officials were not in violation of the public records law in response to the request.
In January 2018 a third investigation began when the clerk/treasurer dismissed in 2011 was rehired as the town treasurer.
The complaint alleged that the appointment was a violation of a state statute which states that a personal lawfully removed from office is ineligible for appointment or election.
Attorney Lee Turonie, legal counsel for McMillan, stated that the matter was not a violation as “the past removal versus resignation of the person appointed Treasurer was never established.” He also pointed out that the statutes prevent the appointment of a person to the vacancy created by the removal, but does not affect later terms. He added that the position she had been appointed to in 2017 was a different position as the combined clerk/treasurer had more recently become two separate positions.
The case was confirmed as closed at the end of 2018 by District Attorney Wetzsteon.